Longtime WGY broadcaster Don Weeks on Tuesday announced he will retire toward the end of this year.
Weeks, 71, has been morning drive host at WGY (810-AM) since 1980. He said he’s leaving the high-profile radio job to spend more time with family and pursue outdoor interests.
“I can’t climb the mountains that well anymore, but there are high hills I can hike,” Weeks told his audience shortly after 6:30 a.m. “There are sunsets for me to see, sunrises for me to see. I have always wanted to learn to fly fish efficiently. There are oceans and lakes I want to sail.”
Weeks’ contract with Clear Channel Communications — which owns Latham-based WGY, several other local radio stations and about 900 stations around the country — expires Dec. 1. He expects to remain on the job through 2010. “They kind of want me to stick around,” Weeks said later Tuesday. “I might even work through Christmas Wish, which has always been a big thing for me.”
The annual holiday campaign benefits needy children in the Capital Region.
Weeks, who lives in Rotterdam, will be sleeping later in the morning by Jan. 1, 2011. “I’ll miss the audience, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “They’ve been great to me.”
He also said: “I can’t imagine the last day. One of the e-mails really got to me, it’s kind of representative of the feelings I was picking up from most of the e-mails. You realize you’re part of somebody’s family, and they’re losing a family member they won’t see every single day. That’s pretty amazing.”
Weeks’ career in radio reached a high point last November, when he and five other state broadcasters were inducted into the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame. In 2005, he received the National Association of Broadcasters’ Marconi Award, which recognizes top radio stations and on-air personalities across the nation.
Weeks graduated from Nott Terrace High School in 1956 but began his radio career a year earlier, when as a junior he won a contest to host WOKO’s Saturday afternoon “Teen Time” show for five weeks. His first paying job came at WSNY, then 1240-AM, located on the upper floor of the old Plaza Theater on State Street. Station WTRY and Top 40 selections were next.
Weeks left WTRY in 1965 to join television station WAST (now WNYT) as the “cartooning weatherman.” He stayed until 1968, when he became art director at WRGB Television. He stayed two years, then took a job as creative director at Albany advertising agency Helpin and Williams.
Weeks returned to radio part-time, running a morning show at WABY before beginning daily duties at Helpin and Williams. The WABY show led to the WGY gig.
Newsman Chuck Custer has worked the 5:30-to-9 a.m. shift with Weeks for more than 20 years.
“I think for both of us, it’s now becoming real,” said Custer, also WGY’s director of news and programming. “It’s almost surreal — Don’s been such a rock here for so long. I am very sincere when I say somebody will succeed him, nobody’s going to replace him.”
Weeks’ early notice of departure gives WGY time to plan for the next host.
“This is a very important hire for us,” Custer said. “The last thing we want to do is put a new show together and then have to change it in six months or a year from now.”
He said the 2011 morning show could include one or two people. “I see something that will be, in general, driven by topical stuff with a heavy emphasis on local,” Custer said. “It’s not going to be a news show per se, I want humor in it. I want to be talking about and having guests on for whatever’s happening that day.”
Weeks’ successor may be local, or may come from outside the Capital Region market.
“We’re going to hire who we think is the best fit for us,” Custer said. “If we had candidates of equal values, one local and one not local, I would have a strong preference for the local. That would be my bias going in, someone with local presence and knowledge.”
Weeks joked about his impending retirement on the air, and in interviews later in the day.
“They’ve got the sunset all ready, and I’ve got the horse,” he said. “I’m ready to ride off.”
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